“Skin Game” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2014)

Skin Game
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For the fifteenth novel of the Dresden Files, bestselling author Jim Butcher decided to go for the ultimate “What if?” for urban fantasy that fans might’ve thought he would’ve tackled in an earlier book in the series, but as the saying goes: “Better late than never.” Fans of the series will gobble Skin Game up, as they have the whole series, even if Butcher seems not to be that big of a fan of his female characters.

As the winter knight to Queen Mab, Dresden has certain obligations he must fulfill. Mab makes up a solution for Dresden who’s dealing with his big headache problem that he knows will eventually kill him if he doesn’t do anything about it. In exchange for an earring that will minimize the pain he has to grant her a favor. This involves entering into a heist operation with a number of unlikeable characters including a rogue warlock, Hanna Ascher, a shapeshifter named Binder and an old enemy, Anna Valmont. The whole operation is being run by Nicodemus Archeleone. Dresden isn’t happy with any of this by any means, but he knows he is under the honored agreement with Mab and can’t say no, or will have to suffer the consequences. He does at least enlist Karrin Murphy to watch his back and help him however she can.

The plan is to open a way into Hades and steal something from the vault of the devil himself. No biggie, right? In return each member of the group will get millions, as well as their own ability to steal whatever they want from Satan’s vault in hell. Dresden is sure he smells a trap, but he also has his own revenge plans. Ultimately, there will be a lot of double-crossing and even triple-crossing before the book is done, but Butcher clearly had a lot of fun throwing his characters into a heist setup within an urban fantasy universe. As with all Dresden books, there’s plenty of conflict so the reader never gets a chance to grow bored, and unlike some of the other Dresden books, Harry doesn’t get quite as much thrown at him making it seem a little less farfetched.

The failing of the book is in what Butcher does to his female characters. Murphy has an unfortunate accident and is out for most of the book, replaced by the familiar face and sword of Michael Carpenter. As for the other female characters, they either meet untimely ends or get put through the ringer to the extent one wonders if Butcher has something about doing cruel things to his female characters. Nevertheless, Skin Game is a run romp to Hell and back, with Dresden biting off way more than he can chew; fortunately he has the winter mantle to keep his strength up, but that will only last to a point, and it if ever gets taken away, he’ll quickly learn just how human he still is.

Originally written on June 28, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Skin Game from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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